|Final Destination 2 (2003)
|David R. Ellis
|J. Mackye Gruber and Eric Bress (screenplay) - Jeffrey Reddick (story)
|A.J. Cook, Ali Larter, Michael Landes, David Paetkau, Lynda Boyd, James Kirk, Keegan Connor Tracy, Jonathan Cherry, T.C. Carson, Justina Machado and Tony Todd
“I have this really bad feeling. It’s not over yet” – Kimberly
Recently I watched the entire “Final Destination” (2000 – 2011) franchise. It’s a solid collection of horror films with a knockout premise that has the Grim Reaper as it’s baddie. Every film starts out the same; a person has a premonition of a disaster that’s about to take place and manages to save himself along with a few friends and others. Then the survivors start to perish one by one and it’s revealed that they thwarted Death’s design by surviving and now the Grim Reaper comes to collect…in gruesome and macabre ways.
Every film follows the same formula and tries and be as imaginative as possible with the death sequences that really are the franchise’s raison d’etre. It’s somewhat similar to watching a number of adaptations of “Ten Little Indians” (which I did a short while ago) in that these films have a blueprint they don’t stray from but the execution varies in quality.
I´d rank them up as follows:
5) “The Final Destination” (2009)
This one can quite easily be labelled as the worst in the franchise but it’s still an enjoyable time waster. Really fast paced, clocking in at under 80 minutes sans credits, with a few cringe worthy death scenes but quite bad when it comes to the writing. It’s also insanely 3D heavy with the effects that make them come out rather hokey looking in 2D. The actors are pretty bad but then their characters are very one-dimensional with the exception of Mykelti Williamson’s and he’s the only actor that comes off decently. Moderately entertaining at the end of the day but also fairly lackluster in everything other than the death scenes.
4) “Final Destination 3” (2006)
The roller coaster opening is good, many of the death scenes are impressively executed and the lead character (played well by Mary Elizabeth Winstead) is likeable but there’s something missing in director James Wong’s second stab at the franchise. Bringing back teenagers instead of adults as in the second one doesn’t automatically give it the same vibe as the original and it never reaches any high level of tension or suspense. It does expand a bit with the character of one would-be-victim but it’s an avenue that was much better explored in Part 5. “FD3” entertains but it’s markedly lesser in quality to the ones that preceded it.
3) “Final Destination” (2000)
The one that started it all is a really gripping horror/thriller that introduces Death as a villain and he’s a menacing foe as he can’t be seen and his powers of control are immense. The airplane explosion has decidedly less visual impact than the later entries showcased in their opening scenes but it’s a really well pulled off set-piece that sets the tone well. James Wong’s direction is good and the mood is tense with prolonged stalking sequences that play well with viewers nerves and expectations. The death scenes are well handled (and at least two are really startling) and there’s a decent amount of genuine suspense generated. The performers are really good with Devon Sawa, Ali Larter, Kimberly Cloke and particularly Seann William Scott delivering good work (and Tony Todd’s cameo is not to be overlooked) and the screenplay is good with wholly implausible scenarios that are well realized. “FD” was certainly an inventive breath of fresh air at a time where post “Scream” (1996) slashers were already showing signs of fatigue and it was a no-brainer that a new franchise was born.
2) Final Destination 5 (2011)
I’d never have believed that the 5th instalment in a series as repetitive as this would impress so much. The opening scene on a bridge is magnificent and thankfully the effects here aren’t as 3D heavy as with the fourth film despite it being shot for that format. The writers here put some thought into the characters and very decent actors realize them well; particularly impressive are Nicholas D’Agosto, Miles Fisher and Tony Todd gets a bigger part this time and he’s always good. There’s some good humour spread around here on occasion (never overdone) and P.J. Byrne elicits a few chuckles along with “The Office” veteran David Koechner. The viewer really feels for these characters and that’s mightily different from especially part 4. There’s also a novelty twist in Death’s plans and designs that two characters exploit and that gives them a whole new dimension and it works pretty well. Then there’s a fantastic twist ending that caps off the franchise in the best possible way.
Now on to the “FD” that I consider the best
Kimberly Corman (Cook) has a premonition of a highway pileup killing her friends among many others. When she awakens from her vision, she’s blocking a bunch of cars on a ramp leading to the highway and she refuses to budge. While Officer Burke (Landes) tries to intervene, the massive accident occurs and the people behind her realize they just got away with one.
Soon after one of the lucky ones who didn’t get on the highway (and twice lucky ‘cause he just won the lottery) dies a freakish death just outside his apartment. Kimberly hears of Flight 180 from a year earlier, recognizes the similarities and starts fearing she and the others might be in danger. She contacts Clear Rivers (Larter) who’s residing in a padded cell in a sanatorium after her ordeal a year earlier and she informs Kimberly on Death’s design and how they cheated it. This isn’t over by a long shot.
First off; the opening sequence with the pileup is great. The build-up to it is very suspenseful and the actual accident is so well realized and gut wrenching that it’s almost hard to watch. The blending of actual crashes and CGI is very nearly seamless, and this almost looks like a real pileup caught on film. Perfectly sets the tone for a very gruesome film. The following individual deaths are seriously disturbing in both how ingenious they are and also how well they’re prolonged and stretched to almost unbearable lengths until they finally occur…and not necessarily when you’d expect them. These are inventive minds at work here with wild imagination.
The first film introduced how meticulous Death is when he designs how people will perish. He’s also quite devilish in how to repair what goes wrong when his plans are thwarted. This was the terrific concept of the first film and it applies here as well but there’s also the added twist with these survivors having benefitted somewhere down the line from the ill-fated survivors from Flight 180. The creepy coroner (Todd) also informs them of another possible way to cheat Death but here that’s only a MacGuffin (that will come into play in better fashion in “FD5”, no less) that leads to false hopes.
I did a little online research to see how fans of the franchise rate these films and I noticed that a lot of them found “FD2” to be overly complicated when introducing this added element or notion of how to possibly avoid a terrible fate. But that’s precisely what tips the film to the top IMO. It’s also breathlessly paced and well directed by late director Ellis (who also helmed Part 4 where he didn’t fare as well) who maintains a fever pitch right to the finish line. It’s also well written with decent leads Cook, Landes and Larter and more than tolerable secondary characters who meet grisly demises.
But it’s really the terrific set-pieces that stay with you. “FD2” has the best opening sequence IMO and overall has the most imaginative individual death sequences. It builds upon and expands on an already great premise and does it well along with maintaining suspense, tension and momentum admirably.